A Personal God
By Peter Amsterdam and David Brandt Berg
God is a personal and active being. His personhood is seen in that He has self-awareness, rational consciousness, self-determination, intelligence, emotions, knowledge, and will, all of which are necessary for personhood. We, as human beings, are personal and possess personhood. We have personhood because we are made in the image of God.
The difference between human beings and all other created things on earth is that we are made in God’s image and they are not; we possess personhood and they don’t. As William Lane Craig said, “Man is a person because God is personal, and that is what enables us to relate to God.” God being personal and possessing personhood doesn’t mean that God is human; rather it means that we as humans share personhood with God.
God personally interacts with humankind, as can be seen throughout the Bible. He enters into relationships with people. He has made agreements or partnerships, called “covenants,” with them. He speaks to them throughout the Bible. These are personal acts.
In the Old Testament, God actively involved Himself with His people, Israel, in their times of need—such as by parting the Red Sea and the Jordan River, giving them food and water, providing them with land, and so on. He sent messengers, the prophets, who delivered His words, and He rewarded or punished people in accordance with whether they obeyed or disobeyed those messages. Throughout the Old Testament it’s plain that God was personally and actively involved with His people.
The book of Genesis shows God interacting in a personal way with His creatures in many instances, including in the creation of the world, in His actions and conversations with Adam and Eve, through His entering into personal covenants with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He continued to show Himself as personal through His dealings with Moses and the children of Israel.
When Moses asked, God spoke His name—Yahweh, I AM. Having a name and giving that name to another is a personal act. He also has titles that depict Him as personal, such as Father, Judge, Shepherd, or Husband.
Nothing showed that God is personal as clearly as His revelation of Himself in Jesus. Jesus was God walking the earth, and He was personal in every way, in every act, so much so that He personally died so that we could receive salvation.
Our God is not some faraway disinterested being. He is a God who is personal, who has a relationship with His creation. He has made Himself known to us through His Word. He has shown us some of what He’s like. He is interested in us as individuals. He has made a way for us to live with Him forever, through salvation. Through belief in Jesus, the Son of God, we become God’s children. This enables us to touch Him personally, to communicate with Him, to hear His voice, to share our hearts with Him. He communes with us, abides in us, and loves us. We commune with Him, abide in Him, and love Him. We have a personal relationship with the Personal God. How incredibly wonderful!
God so loved the world
Some of the world’s major religions do not believe in or worship a personal God at all. Instead, He is viewed as a sort of “supreme reality,” “ultimate principle,” or “absolute” that is underlying the universe. This rather indefinable concept of the Almighty is usually perceived as a God who generally remains rather distant and aloof from specific human needs, individuals, and circumstances. However, the Bible tells us that the true God is very personally concerned about each one of us, and that “as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who love Him.” (Psalm 103:13)
Other religions, recognizing the marvelous wonder of the beauty and balance of nature, have concluded that the physical creation itself must be God, that everything we can see is a manifestation or part of God. Such a view is actually very close to what the Bible itself says: “For He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things, and in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Colossians 1:17; Romans 11:36; Acts 17:28) Because He is the great power who has created all things, in a sense God is a part of all things and all things are a part of Him, from the vast galaxies of the heavens to the cohesive power of the tiniest atom.
Perceiving the close link between the invisible Creator and the visible things He has made, some religions give reverence and worship to the creation itself—the sun, the moon, the mountains, the wind, the seasons, etc. But the Bible tells us that we can worship and personally know and have a living relationship with God Himself, so therefore we do not need to “worship and serve the creation more than the Creator.” (Romans 1:25) He is pleased when we admire, marvel, and wonder at the beauties, glories, and miracles of His handiwork, His gorgeous creation, but He doesn’t want us to glorify or worship the things that are made while neglecting their Maker.
God is so great, so high, so almighty, so beyond our limited human understanding and comprehension, that it is impossible for us to fully understand or grasp Him or His ways. He says, “As the heavens are high above the earth, so high are My ways above your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) But He so much wanted to help us and to become our close friend that He sent somebody who could show us His love, somebody who could live with us as a man, who could embody and show us what God Himself is like.
God loves us so much, He doesn’t want us to have to suffer separation from Him. When we’re without God’s love, our hearts can never be truly satisfied, and we will remain spiritually empty and lifeless. So to bring us His everlasting life and salvation, He sent His own Son, Jesus, to earth almost 2,000 years ago.
Jesus was miraculously conceived by the Spirit of God and born to a young virgin girl named Mary. He grew up to become, in a sense, a picture of His Father, so we could see what the great invisible Creator is like. And that picture is a picture of love, for Jesus went about everywhere doing good, helping others and teaching about God’s great love for us all.
Finally, Jesus completed His task of proclaiming the good news of salvation to the world, and He gave His life, and was cruelly crucified by His religious enemies. Then, three days after His lifeless body was laid to rest in the grave, Jesus arose from the dead, conquering death and hell forever. The Bible tells us, “God so loved the world (you and me) that He gave His only begotten Son (Jesus), that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
—David Brandt Berg
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